I was surprised when Steven Gerrard, and some pundits, said that he hoped people would start taking Rangers seriously – because anybody who knows anything about football recognised that this was a different Rangers team.
They proved it in the League Cup final, and again on Sunday. There was maybe a wee bit of paranoia about the comments, maybe fuelled by supporters and perplexing questions from non-football people.
I know for a fact that Celtic are definitely taking Rangers seriously.
The League Cup final had a big impact on the league game – Celtic walked off that pitch thinking ‘oof, this is a good side we’re up against’. They knew they’d been saved by individual performances.
And you saw that in the Celtic performance on Sunday, it affected them. There was a definite apprehension about the way they played, they knew that if they made a mistake, it’d probably be punished.
I don’t believe they took Rangers lightly, they didn’t go out flippantly and get caught out – they knew before the game how good their rivals are, now they have to go away and deal with it.
So for me, the result and performance is not a wake-up call for Celtic, they already knew that they were playing against the best Rangers team in ten years.
What’s Rangers’ secret sauce?
The way Rangers set up is literally Liverpool. You could close your eyes during a Liverpool match, switch channel, open your eyes again and see the same team, but playing in blue.
Steven has taken a lot from Jurgen Klopp, which is fantastic – all coaches takes things from others – and I’ve done the same, having watched Klopp’s sessions six or seven years ago.
The way Steven and Gary McAllister have set Rangers up is very clever.
When they signed Ryan Kent, most of us were assuming that he’d be played as a left winger.
Instead, he’s in a Sadio Mane role, as an old fashioned inside forward, with Joe Aribo on the other side. Like Liverpool, the width comes from the full backs. It’s a lovely system, as it means that you have five players in the centre of the field – which determines that you win most of the ball.
It’s all very well people saying that Celtic needed to get their wingers into the game, but how can you when you can’t get the ball? Scott Brown, Callum McGregor and Ryan Christie were up against five at times.
And set plays is another area where Rangers excel. They got the winner from a corner, of course, and their defensive organisation when defending them was fantastic, clearing two off the line.
Except for grabbing someone and giving away a penalty, of course!
I’m sure they’ll be thinking long and hard about spending in January – but I don’t know if they can go again. I know absolutely nothing about Rangers’ finances, but I do know that it’s very hard for a Scottish Premiership club to keep on spending.
Because, if you don’t get the rewards after spending that kind of money, as we’ve seen before, it’s absolutely chaos. That’s the gamble the Rangers people have to weigh up.
Besides – where do you improve them? There’re players in the squad who can’t get a game as it is.
Where do Celtic go from here?
Lenny is a very clever man. He will understand that he needs to look at it and that Celtic need to improve. He’ll go away and think long and hard about how they deal with this.
When two teams are so evenly matched, it’s often just a little tweak that can make the difference.
Questions he’ll be asking are ‘where were Rangers dominant against us?’ and ‘How do we make sure we have more of the ball, so we can feed our better players?’
He might look at it and decide he needs a bit more strength and height.
He needs cover for Odsonne Edouard – we don’t know the situation with Leigh Griffiths, his career’s on hold at the moment, and everyone hopes the lad can get back to it.
But, Celtic will probably be looking for a target man forward. If you have a smaller group of players, they have to be perfect in the way they play – when you have a bit of height and strength, you have days when you’re off it technically, but you can get through it.
Rangers looked the more powerful team on Sunday.
Gerrard’s post-match reaction reflects Old Firm managerial pressures
It’s probably the most excited I’ve seen a manager at full time, but he’s a young manager, and he’d just won one of the biggest games of his managerial career.
It just shows you what the pressure is like for a manager of Celtic or Rangers.
He’ll probably look back and think ‘maybe next time I’ll do something different’, but there was nothing wrong with it, he didn’t do anything over the top.